Friday, May 18, 2012

Battleship feels like a two-hour Navy recruitment video. I’m surprised blue and gold aren’t the colors used on the movie poster, along with “GO NAVY!” and “BEAT ALIENS!”
If you leave your brain at the front door of the multiplex on a day you feel like rooting for the home team, you could do worse than vacillating between cheering and snickering for those two hours of this completely ridiculous, raucous mash up of Independence Day, Pearl Harbor and Transformers.

Director Peter Berg, of Friday Night Lights, The Kingdom, and Hancock, knows his way around the camera. So we can try to accept the fact that for some reason he feels the need to release his inner Michael Bay. What results is not exactly a good movie, but one that unapologetically embraces its clichés, even on occasion winking at them, while careening pell-mell towards its conclusion like speedboat out of control.

I must admit, I rolled my eyes repeatedly at lines like, “I have a bad feeling about this,” and “Let’s do this!,” but the movie kept my attention and Berg made me more than a little invested in humanity surviving to enlist another day.

I had the strange and surreal experience of watching the movie surrounded by military personnel and you’ve never heard such cheering. It was like they were watching themselves onscreen, which is a testament to Berg’s direction, the actors, and the script, however ridiculous it is.
My family is Navy and I can tell you they actually talk and dress that way. You could separate out the military in the theatre, or anywhere for that matter, from a mile away. They were clearly very well portrayed.

Plot? The movie is based on a game by Hasbro (as indicated, and giggled at, in the opening titles of the movie). The screenwriters actually contort the plot so as to lead us to hearing coordinates, “F3! D4! H8!” as in the game…

There are two Naval brothers, one by the book, the other headed for trouble. Older brother Stone Hopper is played by True Blood’s “vampire Eric,” Alexander Skarsgard, giving the world of women dubious of action flicks the first reason to head to the theatre and watch things go boom.
Younger Alex Hopper is played by Taylor Kitsch, in full bad boy mode. Girls, that’s reason two. They encounter aliens during a war games exercise out to sea and whoever is left alive after the high tech bombs start flying from the space ships will have to try to save the world. Anchors away, it’s time to kill some aliens!

Rihanna plays a petty officer named Weps, channeling Resident Evil-era Michelle Rodriguez, who shoots things and has lines like, “Dang!” and, “Boom!,” …at least she doesn’t do anything stupid, and shows a respectable first foray into acting. The one who really phones it in is Liam Neeson as Admiral Shane. He must have blown all his acting dollars on Joe Carnahan’s The Grey, where he does more than scowl and bark.

One big stand out is a local… Fort Belvoir director Colonel Gregory Gadson, plays Mick Canales, a double amputee who helps save the day with his physical therapist Sam (Sports Illustrated model Brooklyn Decker) who is also Alex Hooper’s fiancé.

Apparently Gadson’s role started out small, but grew larger when director Berg saw how much his scenes added to the film. It’s shades of Harold Russell in The Best Years of Our Lives. Gadson who, as the token representative of the Army, wears a T-shirt emblazoned with A.R.M.Y. on it throughout the movie, does a good job with a part that could have been on the cutting room floor.

Just when you think the movie can’t get any more patriotic, a key scene in the third act has veterans of WWII and the Korean war getting into the act (played by real veterans of WWII and the Korean war), even getting to march into the fray in true Michael Bay, slow motion fashion. These old boys aren’t messing around, and they want to blow some things up. At this point the movie is so over the top all you can do is go with it.

I’ll say one thing for Battleship—it isn’t boring. We all know going in it won’t be The Piano or Gone With The Wind …but the blaring AC/DC and other obvious goin’ to war musical awesomeness is right in place, and so is the endless succession of explosions. By the time the prerequisite medal ceremony takes place, you think, “Hey, this 21st century, bloated budget, B-movie was actually entertaining.”

Ridiculous, but entertaining.